Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 25

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Some Top of the Pops albums so perfectly encapsulate the moment they were recorded that it's like having your own private time machine. Others, though laden down with rubbish you wish you could forget, nevertheless remind you why you stopped buying records that month. It is rare, however, for any one to come along that leaves you scratching your head, asking, "Why don't I remember," especially when the year in question is 1972 and you've spent your entire life recalling that as the year when glam rock came of age. The track listing speaks volumes. Or, rather, it doesn't. Donny Osmond and the Partridge Family were inevitable, of course -- did a week go by in the western world when one or both weren't somewhere near the top? And there's David Bowie's "Starman" (a dreadful version, by the way, lacking all of the promise and magic of the man) to nail the chronology into place. But, when you recall a July 1972 Top 40 that included (deep breath) Slade, Gary Glitter, the Sweet, Alice Cooper, Hawkwind, T. Rex, the Kinks, Free, Wings, and B Bumble & the Stingers (eh?), it is an alternate universe indeed that would select Dr Hook, Johnny Nash, Scott English, Bruce Ruffin, and The Godfather as a representative sampling of what the top pops really sounded like. Song for song, there are some reasonable versions on here, although it will not escape the sharp-eared listener that the Osmond vocal is the blended tones of both a male and female singer, nor that the person performing "Sylvia's Mother" sounds a lot like the guy who also handles Rod Stewart covers. As for true highlights, however, only Terry Dactyl & the Dinosaurs' jaunty novelty "Seaside Shuffle" and a challenging run through the Who's "Join Together" truly demand to be heard more than once, leaving the rest to creep back into the cobwebbed obscurity wherein they best belong -- and where they can't mess anymore with your memory banks.

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